When Chris Christie launched his presidential campaign June 30 from the small, sweaty gymnasium of Livingston High School in northern New Jersey, there was something noticeably absent in the air: the sound of Bruce Springsteen, Christie’s idol.
In its place was the insipid thumping of the Garden State’s other famous rock star, Bon Jovi, who—despite having held a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton the night before Christie’s event—had given the governor permission to play his hits. Christie, according to a spokesperson for his political action committee, hadn’t even tried to get permission to play Bruce at the event. And that was, if you know anything about the governor or the state he rules, strange.
Christie’s Springsteen fandom is one of his defining characteristics. As facets of his personality have changed over the years—his feelings about guns and abortion—his love of The Boss has stayed the same.
In an interview with Lifezette, right-wing radio darling Laura Ingraham’s website, Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, confessed they now favor Bon Jovi.
“This is a hard one,” Mary Pat said when the interviewer asked her to choose. She ultimately decided “Bon Jovi.”
Christie, sitting next to Mary Pat, paused and smirked. “Bon Jovi,” he answered.
In 2012, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg accompanied Christie to a Springsteen concert at the Prudential Center in Newark. By that point, Christie had been to 129 Springsteen concerts, and his behavior, as Goldberg documented it, didn’t suggest he intended to stop soon.
According to Goldberg, Christie danced wildly, grabbed his aides into “bear-hugs” and “headlocks” in a fit of excitement and shouted the lyrics to Badlands—“poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything”—without a hint of irony.
When Goldberg asked Christie if Mitt Romney, who at the time was considering Christie for a running mate, could relate to Bruce’s blue-collar lyrics, Christie shouted at him, “No one is beyond the reach of Bruce! No one is beyond the reach of Bruce!”
But now Christie is.
A spokesperson for Christie hasn’t yet responded to a request for an explanation for Christie’s change of heart, but it seems unlikely it’s due to any sort of falling out between the rockstar and the governor, seeing as they never had a relationship to begin with.
They met twice, briefly, according to Goldberg, but Springsteen has never given in to Christie’s attempts to lure him into interacting. When Christie invited him to play his 2010 inauguration, Bruce declined, forcing Christie to hire an E Street cover band, The B Street Band, instead. When he asked him to perform at the 2012 opening of the now-bankrupt Revel Casino, which was supposed to revitalize Atlantic City, Bruce ignored him. “Not even a ‘fuck you,’” Christie complained to Goldberg.
It’s not that Springsteen hates politicians. He’s embraced—literally—Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Kerry. He even campaigned (along with Bon Jovi) for Obama. It’s that Springsteen hates politicians like Christie who want to cut taxes for the rich and pick fights with unions.
Christie has always known this, and it never seemed to matter much to him.
At the concert in 2012, he mocked Springsteen’s mid-show “lecture” to Goldberg. “He’s telling us that rich people like him are fucking over poor people like us in the audience,” Christie said, “except that us in the audience aren’t poor, because we can afford to pay 98 bucks to him to see his show. That’s what he’s saying.”
He explained that he was able to “compartmentalize” his feelings about Springsteen’s politics so that it wouldn’t interfere with his love of his music.
So, it’s hard to guess what changed.
It could be that, since that concert, Springsteen has publicly needled Christie. In the aftermath of Bridgegate, he appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to sing a version of “Born to Run” dedicated to the scandal. They called it Gov. Christie Traffic Jam. They changed the famous lyrics, “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run,” to “We’re stuck in Governor Chris Christie’s Fort Lee, New Jersey traffic jam.”
Christie admitted, in an interview with Yahoo’s Matt Bai, that he hadn’t brought himself to watch the performance. But he said he wasn’t angry about it, and his son assured him it was cool that Springsteen had even uttered his name, regardless of the reason why.
But if that isn’t what changed Christie’s mind, then what did?